Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Excavation and Construction - Arlene’s Arrival

I hadn’t foreseen that hurricane Arlene would put a damper in my plans. It has. We are in the rainy season so precipitation is not in question here. Just the randomness of it. No way to forecast what we’ll get for the next hour, or even half-hour…

Despite the weather, excavation took place on Monday. Thanks to my reader Pleinguy’s suggestion to use a different machine for the excavation, I was able to locate a Bobcat service right next door in La Tortuga. The lot is quite narrow as you can see from the plan. No room to move about but the Bobcat was ideal, as it rotates in any chosen direction. Marcelino and Jorge (my mason and his helper) began in earnest and are hoping to finish the “mamposteo”, or foundation base for the walls by the end of next week. Weather permitting, I’ll take photos tomorrow.

It’s so exciting to see a two-dimensional plan take off in three dimensions! The rooms that I had pictured rather small are much bigger than I thought. You can blame the visualization on my ancient mind of imperial measures rather than metric. Anyway, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I hope to show you how my lot looks like a World War Two ditch preparation for warfare… If all we get is a slice of sunshine, I’ll get a couple of photos.

Space being at a premium, I have to arrange for the gravel, sand, and stones to be dropped between the lot and the road. Pics to show tomorrow. Fortunately, I have very accommodating neighbours for which I’m so grateful. The dirt taken from the ditches filled 6 (yes… six) truckloads to be moved elsewhere.

My costs so far are:

Moving the dirt – 6 truckloads @ $200 pesos a load = $1200 pesos

Bobcat and operator – 8 hours @ $250 pesos an hour = $2000 pesos.

In dollars, and depending on the exchange rate, this would translate to a bit under $300. dollars! How’s that for a bargain?

My two workers asked for a raise that I was very happy to give. They work 44 hours a week, that is from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM on Monday, then from 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM from Tuesday to Friday to make up for the 4 hours that they would be expected to work on Saturday. One hour for lunch. The raise was from $1400 pesos a week for the mason, and $1000 a week for the helper. The total $2400/wk. The raise I offered was to $2600, which they said to be happy with. You do the math. They often work beyond the required hours. I make sure to count those so that I can at least cover them in addition to a bonus.

I dare anyone who states that Mexicans are lazy to try and work for this many hours for this kind of pay! And do it with a smile and singing and joking all day long! It puts me to shame for how much more easily we earn our money up north. And then complain????

How can I not love my new country and its people?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Skype and Telcel

Thanks to a reader from Guaymas, I have an idea of what Telcel is doing to our so-called broadband (banda ancha) transmission. Check the comment posted on June 12 from Anonymous. Thank you, Anonymous. It is unthinkable! Why would Telcel control what programs we can use on our broadband? Carlos Slim also owns Telmex. Will it eventually happen to them too? He’s already the richest man in the world. When is enough enough?

I recently heard of PROFECO and I seriously think that we, who have been arbitrarily stripped of the legal use of our broadband transmission, should fight for our right to use our service in whichever way we wish. It’s as if we had a youngster who loved playing games on the internet but would be barred from an altogether legitimate game. It’s outrageous! Besides, Telcel’s move will only encourage us to look for another internet provider. What’s their gain? There’s no way I would use Telcel for long distance ANYWHERE. Their rates are disgustingly high.

I’ve been very busy with construction and dog worries and will report these on a next blog. But I was so incensed to find that we, legitimate users of Telcel’s broadband, for which we pay the full price, should be deprived of a full service that I had to express my indignation.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Taking a Hiatus from the Blog

There is not much planned for the next three weeks. The maestro and his helper are working at Peter’s lot and will be back here on June 27th when we begin the excavation.

I’ve been told, and in fact I can see it myself, that excavating from side to side will present a challenge for a front loader, if not an impossibility. So I have the time to look for a smaller one that can manoeuver better in my limited space.

As nothing much is happening, I’ll take a hiatus from the blog for that time and will get back to it in the last week of June.

For any who are leaving on vacation, have a lovely time and thank you for your interest.

If you wish to email me, I’ll do my best to reply promptly.


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Sunday, June 5, 2011

My Plan

I have been waiting for this for a long,  l  o  n  g  time. Before showing my plan for my casita let me explain what has delayed this.

First, the lot is narrow and my RV is, and will be, occupying a sizeable portion of it, next to the bodega. I took this into account since it’s still my residence. For now it’s stationary, but once I move into the house, the RV will be squeezed closer to the back and side fences.

Second, I had added a roof over a temporary floor to accommodate my washer, the lavadero, and a chair. I’m sure you’ve seen it on photos. This so as to extend my living space.

Third, I had to pay for the lot. That took me one year.

Then last, but not least, the plan had to be sitting in the remaining space and leave enough space (at times barely…) for the workers to attend to their job of building.

So, here goesSmile

The lot measures a bit under 12 metres wide and is 27 metres long. I was raised and lived most of my adult life with ounces, inches, feet and yards, and pounds. And, although Canada has been using the metric system for a number of years, I still have a hard time visualizing space in metric terms. Therefore, I started by converting the lot in feet. So that would be a little over 38 feet wide by +88 feet long. No hacienda here!

Then I went to work on the design leaving enough room to back up the RV through the front gate of close to 4 metres. It left too little space on the other side. Totally skewed. When I realized that all I had to do was tear down part of the back fence and install a gate for the RV, it made a lot more sense. The back fence abuts another street.

Then I had to convert all in metric so as to present a plan that would be readable here. That was a bit of a problem because the measures weren’t as exact as I had visualized them. With my non-metric visualization, my feet ended up with too many centimetres. That would present a problem for the builders. Back to the drawing board…  I redesigned everything in metres as exactly as possible. So, whatever I end up with, it’s all in metric. But I think it will work.

Plan for blog 001

I hope it’s readable. The paper was white but after scanning it onto my SD card, then transferring to the computer via an SD reader, I was unhappy with the result. I tried to tweak it, unsuccessfully.

The scale is simple: each little square equals one square metre. A metre is about 39 inches, so a little over a yard.

At long last.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Blog Followers

My apologies. Google has been having a problem with listing all of you who follow my blog. I’m not even sure that you’ll be advised or have noticed that you have been all ungraciously erased. Neither am I sure whether you have received my latest posts. I hope that your info and details are still stored somehow and somewhere by Google. Just as I hope that you will be checking for new posts on my blog.

Google has been informed of this by all bloggers to whom it happened. We are told that their engineers are actively seeking a resolution to this problem. Right now, I have no way of re-installing anything. I have tried what some have done, e.g. removing the title and re-installing it. The result was disappointing.

I presume that you haven’t received any notice of either this or new posts. Usually, I see comments and haven’t for a few days now.

Please let me know whether you have been advised by Google of new posts or of that problem by sending me an email at

I miss you,


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Friday, June 3, 2011

Building an Arched Doorway

Now that the columns are of equal thickness and width, the arched doorway can begin. We were expecting a load of red bricks that would be used to make the base of the arch. Because the supplier had a problem and could not deliver until the next day, the maestro used cement blocks that were cut to shape and size. Here’s the result of this work.

Arched doorway 002

The pieces, normally bricks, are held onto a base that will be removed later. Then they are lightly cemented together to form the lower part of the arch. Note on the right that the arch will repose on the columns and begin the upward arch from the inner side of the column.

Then rebars are bent into the desired shape to form the upper part of the arch. the rebars serve as the form and the solid anchoring to the columns. All the pieces are held together with thick wire. Here, the maestro is securing the rebars to the castillo or metal mesh that can be seen on the left. This metal mesh is what reinforces the cement fence at every three metres of fence and at the ends of the fence itself.

Arched doorway 012Arched doorway 007

Oiled planks are then secured front and back of the arch and smaller pieces of wood follow the curve of the arch up to the top.

Concrete (cement mixed with gravel) is then poured into the form.

Those planks will then be removed the following day.

Then, the maestro will chip off any uneven part so that the arch will be smooth. It will then be covered with a mescla or fine cement mix that will even it all.

Raising Columns–Making a New Column

The maestro and his helper have been working very hard and accomplished everything that I had planned for them. First, the columns had to be raised. Not for aesthetic value, but because the iron part that permits to sway the gates either way had to be covered. The double gate was installed a while back.

First oiled planks were placed over the existing columns. They were tightly secured so that the cement poured into the new form would remain only in.

Raising a column 001

On the right of the photo is the form that will hold the cement extension.

On the left is the making of a new column. Columns are much wider and thicker than that of the block fence. Since I wanted an arched doorway, both sides had to be of equal thickness.

I had to procure planks of the required width and the box form was prepared. It was then secured to the existing castillo or boxy end of the fence.

Concrete was then poured into the new form and bingo, castillo has been made into a column.

Raising a column 002

The continuation of this work is titled Arched Doorway and is a new post.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

.....enough already about the dogs!

I received this email this morning. No words before or after it. After the initial hurt, I wondered whether I had bored readers with my dog stories. But they are my chosen companions, therefore awfully close and important to me. They matter a lot and this past weekend was definitely dramatic, if not traumatic… Being in a new country and in view of the plight of street dogs, I felt that RV’ers who come to Mexico with a dog or another animal, would benefit from my experience. Sharing experiences is, after all, the purpose of my blog. Besides, construction stories would have lacked interest… at least until today.

Monday, the front loader came to spread evenly the tepetate that had been dropped in a heap over only half of the lot. Although it’s much too early to have the ground level, it has to be even enough so that the maestro Marcelino and his helper Jorge, could trace the contour of the house. This will guide where to dig for the mamposteo. When it happens, photos will show the work in progress.  This will not take place until I get them next to work for me for two weeks from June 20.

Yesterday they installed a fence of large metal mesh to enclose the RV and bodega. This to leave sufficient space for the workers and materials they need, without interference from (oopColumns 011-1s… sorry…) the dogs. This meant that the hose that runs from the in-ground water tank to the RV had to be dug out, re-routed to allow for digging, and covered again. Believe me, it was hell. The hose runs over 30 metres. With the driver and front loader waiting, there was no time to allow for taking photos. A look at the ground gives a clear picture of tepetate, a type of rock that is friable and turns to powder.

Today, they are busy extending the columns on each side of the gate and the future door over which will be an arch. Much of my time this week was spent ordering materials, paying for them, and seeing that they are conveniently placed for access by the workers.

Maestro Marcelino, a very happy easy-going man but an incredible worker. My ladder was too short, so the maestro created one!

Columns 013

Planks are covered with used motor oil to prevent the cement to warp them as they are used to make the desired form.

Columns 008-1







The form is then nailed where the column needs to be extended. The cement will be poured when all is fitting real tightly.

Raising a column 002

Columns 015-1Jorge meant well, looking straight at the camera. I took it a second too late and there was no retake!





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